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Why aren't we debating foreign policy?

BY MATT HEINZE | NOVEMBER 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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We live in the United States of Amnesia. Or so it would seem. Only months after NATO and American operations in Libya abated, no one seems to remember or care.

On Nov. 5, a Des Moines Register poll loosely reaffirmed this by showing Iowa conservatives are most worried about economic and debt-related issues heading into the 2012 election. (OK, so admittedly, this doesn't mean voters don't care about foreign policy, it's just not their most important issue.) Yet somewhere in between either the seventh or eighth GOP debate, I've found myself really starting to wonder: Do any of the candidates even care to address the other issues facing our country? Do they even realize that other issues, especially foreign policy, have a dramatic effect on the nation's economy?

You'd think after 10 years of fighting unpopular wars half a world away, candidates would step up to the podium and say "enough." But no one, Republican candidates and President Obama alike, seem eager to address it. Instead, it's been business as usual from an international relations perspective.

I mean I've heard Herman Cain talk about taxes. I've seen Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann passionately deride Obama's jobs bill. I've heard Texas Gov. Rick Perry forget which federal departments he wishes to cut, and I've continued to watch former Gov. Mitt Romney go nowhere. In fact, in many of the debates or campaign stops I've seen, all I've heard candidates talk about (besides an occasional nod to Iraq and Afghanistan by Texas Rep. Ron Paul) is how they'll magically create jobs from nothing when they're elected.

Still, it should come as no surprise that creating jobs and lessening our debt are at the forefront of issues. Seeing as no long-term economic recovery or debt solution has come to fruition in Washington and markets in the Euro-zone continue to reel with the possibility of an Italian default, these issues are very much the most vital threat to our future prosperity. But to pretend our foreign-policy practices are sound enough to be omitted from address (and not largely responsible for our treacherous economic state) is beyond ludicrous.

After more than a decade of occupying numerous countries, our armed forces continue to operate in overseas deserts. Indeed, the term "occupy" is certainly more applicable to post-9/11 American foreign policy than to any anti-Wall Street protest currently in existence. For more than 10 years, we've blown countless buildings, people, and money off the face of the Earth with complete disregard for how life functions at home and how we're viewed abroad.

Even more frustrating is that while every candidate at the top of the ballot seems more concerned with creating jobs and staving off further debt than ending war, few seem to understand the correlation between the two. It's as if the contenders forget that war costs money, which would only serve to strengthen their domestic economy initiatives.

Harking back to calculations made by Al-Jazeera in September, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will end up costing the United States more than $5 trillion alone. That puts the total costs at just under $17,000 for each American. (But it's OK, we put it on our national credit card.)

So when does it end?

Having listened to Obama's promise of a new era of accountability back in the 2008 cycle, I've found myself disillusioned with the power politics of today. Both the mainstream Republican bloc and Obama too much represent the old-school military hawks incapable of reconciling American egocentrism and real-world needs.

Ron Paul and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson really are the odd guys out for 2012, given that both are inclined to admit American foreign policy has faltered and bogged down our economy in the process. Incredibly, both still remain well behind in the polls, even as both present more articulate economic and debt-solvency policies than that of their opponents; at least, more so than the likes of Perry, Bachmann, Romney, and Cain combined.

Looking forward to 2012, it becomes clear we need to demand more from our candidates in terms of foreign-policy revision. Business as usual isn't working and isn't helping us rebuild at home. Let us remind them the two are interrelated.


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